Fringe Arts Editor vs. Community Editor on The Darcys

Point: Katie – Fringe Arts Editor, Music Junkie

Generally, I’m a really big fan of cover songs, in the same way that I generally like The Darcys and I generally like Steely Dan.

But good Lord, together they make an awful combination.

When The Darcys released a track-by-track cover album of AJA, Steely Dan’s best selling album, I was pleased.

Not pleased enough to go out and purchase a copy, but it didn’t infuriate me or anything.

The same thing cannot be said about my mental state Friday night.

The opening band that night at Casa del Popolo, Mexico City’s Rey Pila, was just setting up. They went on to play a completely solid set, to a pretty small crowd sipping beers nearby the bar. The singer was great, and if they had their CDs for sale, I definitely would have bought one.

However, this promising theme did not continue.

I’ve seen horrible shows before… I once saw a Pavement show (after waiting my entire adolescent life for a reunion tour) where I actually started to cry. Stephen Malkmus refused to play any songs with the band and drunkenly stormed off stage. I’ve also seen Shania Twain live. Need I go on?

But The Darcys’ performance on Friday was the worst show I’ve ever seen.

Having listened to many a cover song in my day, I feel like I can say I’m somewhat knowledgeable on the subject. What I’ve figured out is this, the more you try to impersonate a person’s voice that is drastically different than your own, the more things are going to go downhill—fast.

This is why “This Charming Man” covered by Death Cab for Cutie is one of the worst covers ever recorded and why “Merry Christmas Baby (Please Come Home)”, also covered by Death Cab, is one of the best.

Darcys, this advice is for you: y’all should probably take this theory into account the next time you want to cover a beloved album live.

Counterpoint: Sam – Community Editor, Photographer

To a classic rock purist, the songs of Steely Dan could only ever be gelded by a troop of scruffy hipsters like The Darcys. It’s true that seeing their droning and overly-melodic takes on the tracks of Steely Dan’s Aja was certainly not the most entertaining hour I’ve ever spent. However, I appreciated the attempt to add a twist on tracks that—although arguably great—have been played ad nauseum over the classic rock airwaves throughout the last few decades.

It seemed to me that the covers, which were said by the band in an interview with Exclaim! to be motivated by a genuine nostalgic attachment to Steely Dan, were more a not-completely-successful attempt to resurrect that music in the modern musical lexicon than an attempt to just recreate their music. That is, The Darcys tried to bring what they loved to their audience, in a musical language that that audience could understand.

The translation or reinterpretation of anything forces artists to straddle the line between the work of its creator and one’s own style. In the case of The Darcy’s, that balance was either not met or the two styles were just incompatible. In any case, it was an endeavour that—although imperfect—deserves some acknowledgement for being an interesting project.

I too much preferred the upbeat and abrupt stylings of the opening band, Rey Pila, but I don’t think the distaste caused by the implied pretension or the imperfection in The Darcy’s performance should warrant the title “worst show I’ve ever seen.”

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